Hero or Fool?

Here I am, stuck way up high on the side of a near vertical hillside, in the dark, wearing soaking wet slip-on boots. Not good. It started simple enough; I was on my way back to my tent after the last act at 2AM. Nick says, “Hey we just got a call about some guy with a broken arm, you want to help?” Well OK I said, and mounted the four-wheeler.

We were wandering around in the dark for a half hour when somebody finally flagged us. “He’s across the creek up on the ridge,” says the helpful person. So I follow him through the brush, and forded the ice-cold creek. I remember thinking “my brand new Redback boots” (insert mournful tone).

I play follow the leader through the sticker bushes. We soon reach a steep river bottom hillside covered with trees, rocks, and more sticker bushes. I’m pick my way carefully up the slope, but that just keeps getting steeper and steeper. Now it’s nearly vertical, and my footing gets real uncertain. I finally get to where I can see a couple dimly back-lit folks at the summit. “Hey you OK up there?” I ask.

“Yeh, we are OK but my boyfriend has a broken arm”, came the feminine reply from one of the dark silhouettes. Sounded encouraging. But how do I get up there? I took a few more tenuous steps upward, but my wet boots felt like greasy flip-flops. I had zero confidence in my traction. So I stopped and just waited. I reflected on the question of whether or not I am being smart up here. I know nothing about high-angle rescue. I would rather parachute then hang from the end of a rope.

Up climbs Denny, a great EMT from Miller County. He goes right past me like a billy goat, never missing a step. In a couple more minutes he is up on top, confirming the broken arm but that otherwise the guy is OK. Except for the fact he landed against a couple of saplings right at the very edge of the precipice. So I suggested caution in trying to do anything, and volunteered to go for rope to tie the guy off with until we had a way to get him safely down.

Back down the hill and through the bushes I went again. At the streams edge I let our team on the other side know we really needed somebody up here with technical rescue equipment and experience. I then got my best idea of the evening and asked “Can’t we just tie him off, give him something to keep warm and wait for daylight?” My idea fell on deaf ears. No Dan, we really need to do something now. Well, at least I could try to make sure nobody gets killed trying to interfere with this natural process of evolutionary selection.

I mean, these folks really did try to sneak in a concert by heading over a densely wooded high ridge, and then try to slither down a near vertical 60-70 foot vertical rock wall in the dark, one of them with no shoes on bare feet. If we save them and don’t take them away they could reproduce, possibly with each other. EMS is always a little more complicated here in the Midwest.


About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for EMS1.com, on AmbulanceWorld.com and Multibriefs.com. I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
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